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    On Dogen Time

    For those folks unfamiliar with his writings, Master Dogen had some very interesting perspective(s) on time. And I emphasize the word "perspective(s)", because he wrote of an infinite variety of ways of looking and experiencing time (and "no time") ... some seemingly contradictory, each true in its own way.

    Now, for those who would say that this is just "Buddhist philosophy" and offers nothing to our Practice, let me tell you why penetrating these perspectives is golden. Most are not our typical, day to day way of looking at time ... but are freeing. For example:

    - Each moment, whatever its content, happy or sad, is true and sacred and a jewel. Push none of it away ... "sad childhoods" and "scary futures" included.

    - But, from another simultaneously true perspective, there really are no "separate moments", nor "happy vs. sad" (without the human mind to cut things up that way and impose judgments such as times we like and times we dislike). The trees and mountains probably do not need to think to themselves "Today is Tuesday, and it is better than yesterday, and I hope tomorrow it rains"). One aspect of this is that, in a sense, "sad childhoods long ago" and "scary/desired futures" exist primarily right now between your ears. Be more like the trees and mountains!

    - All time is so interconnected and whole, that ... not only does the past flow into the future ... but (like the top of a mountain that flows into the bottom, and the bottom of the mountain which flows into the top) the future flows into the past.

    - All time is so interconnected and whole ... that each moment, from one perspective, contains and expresses all moments. ... like each single step of a ballerina holds and expresses the whole ballet she is dancing.

    - All time is so interconnected to life, that it may be said that all things, each of us, lives in our own 'being-time' ... like our own picture which we are constantly painting, and which we make and remake with every step and choice, gesture, word and thought ("this moment is the start of the rest of your life" is just the tip of the iceberg!)

    - "Long" and "short" are really just human judgments (the Earth does not say to itself "Gee, it takes me a long time to get around the sun!" The firefly does not say, "shame I only shine for a fortnight"). Those measurements can be dropped from mind, whereby concepts such as "long life" and "short life" can be dropped from mind.

    - All time (from another simultaneously true perspective) is a state of mind ... and there is no true "past" or "future" or "present" when the mind stops cutting up "just this" into categories, which the human mind imposes all manner of judgments and divisions upon. Even the word "present" then has no meaning if there is no "past" or "future" to compare it to. What remains is the ultimate "just going with the flowing".

    and other perspectives too ...

    I wrote the following awhile back (perfectly what it is in that moment and this) .. .

    As to Dogen's conception of Being-Time. I can give that to you in a nutshell. It helps to realize that Dogen was always proposing Reality from several perspectives at once, some seemingly contradictory (X exists, X does not exist), but just different vantage points, each true in its way:

    So, we usually think that time flows past to present to future, and that events over 'here' and 'now' are not events over 'there' and 'then'. Well, that is true in its way. But Dogen also pointed out that the past is just a memory of the mind (it was, after all, just the 'present' back then), and the future is just a dream of the mind (what future has there been yet?). In that way, 'past' and 'future' are just dreams. So, without there truly being a 'past' or 'future', what need have we even for the word 'present' (which only exists as a concept in contrast to what is -not- the present)? If we compare it a little to a 'river', it is a little like saying that there is no 'upstream' or 'downstream' or 'here' to the river, if we just see it all as a single 'just-the-river'.

    And because every place on the river is 'just the river', every drop of the river is 'just the river', everything happens SIMULTANEOUSLY! Both the top and bottom of the river are present simultaneously and are one. Because everything that is of the river is just the river, everything that happens 'here' happens 'here' 'there' and 'everywhere' too. (I don't like overly connecting modern physics to Dogen, but there are parallels: For example, we think of the 'Big Bang' as something that happened in the past, but in some mathematical models, it is happening right now and every time too. Furthermore, where in the universe is the 'Big Bang' not happening(?), because all came out of the Big Bang at once).

    Further, there is a past and future too (there is, and there is not). But the future flows into the present which flows into the past. It is a little like saying that, though a river flows from upstream to downstream, you cannot have downstream without upstream. Downstream also flows into the upstream. Modern physics has come intrigingly close to this by saying that all timelines actually can be seen as running in two directions (the dominoes falling down can also be seen as the dominos 'unfalling up').

    And every drop of the river flows into every other drop of the river, so that what happens to Drop X is the time and being of Drop Y. If you drink a cup of coffee, it is the whole universe drinking a cup of coffee. And if you are doing it here and now, the whole universe is here and now.

    Furthermore, everything in the universe had its own 'time'. (Again, by coincidence perhaps, EInstein stumbled upon a model something like this a few centuries later). My clock is not your clock.

    We also think of time as 'long' or short' ... but would a creature that lives its lifetime in a day or a creature with a lifetime of 10,000 years view time the same way as mankind? Are not 'long and short' subjective judgments of men, and is not 'time' just" time' (just what it is, not long or short)? And can we not say too that every moment is an eternity unto itself? .

    And, of course, time is not separate from being, and being is not separate from time ... In other words, all of the above is just YOU!

    And on and on it goes. It is just another way of seeing life and being as of one piece with all of space and time, with all Reality. It is just another way too of tossing a monkey wrench in our normal way of seeing events and who we are.

    Now, I am out of time ... so time to stop.

    Anyway, I have not even begun to scratch the surface. If you want to read Dogen original words in Uji, have a look here ...


    And a scholar's paper here:


    Does that help?
    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - If you think anything I wrote is "weird" ... I just happened to hear a short bit of Stephen Hawking's interview yesterday in which he posits that time travel is possible if space were sufficiently warped (star trek fans) ... although ya might wreck all space-time in the process ... :shock:

    Last edited by Jundo; 12-02-2012 at 09:47 AM.

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